Letter to the Editor: Print journalism critical for learning, rural areas

This Letter to the Editor was submitted by the Missouri Interscholastic Press Association Board of Directors.

To the Editor,

This week, we heard that due to the higher education budget cuts facing our state’s universities in the coming months, Truman State plans to make cuts to the communication department including potentially cutting funds for printing costs of the campus voice, the newspaper. The MIPA Board of Directors is writing you today to express our disappointment that those voices may be silenced and opportunities to train the next generation of journalists in Missouri may be closing.

Missouri Interscholastic Press Association serves 60 schools, nearly 100 journalism teachers and thousands of high school journalists across our state. Our member teachers work tirelessly day after day preparing their students as journalists across all media, but we find the media that students hold in their hands like newspapers or newsmagazines are by far the most read and most effective in reaching the student body, and in some cases our schools work with their local community newspaper and reach an audience similar to the one your newspaper reaches.

We understand the Truman newspaper also acts as one way the Kirksville citizens learn about the university and its students. This is an essential communication tool. One would think the university would want to keep every line of communication open between itself and the city of Kirksville open. Every opportunity should be utilized, including continuing the print publications.

Yes, in recent years many professional print publications have been consolidated, closed or moved online, yet we’ve found through our members that print journalism is not “dead” in rural portions of our state. There is still a need for the print format, and a need to prepare responsible journalists to fill that need in our state and in our nation.

Despite the changes we are seeing on the professional level, as teachers we still see value in giving our students these “laboratories” to practice journalism and learn to tell stories effectively. Learning cannot happen by reading text or reviewing theories. Teaching for this generation of students in our classrooms needs to be authentic. In the high school world, teachers are told to create “performance-based learning” or “real-world” projects where students can directly apply the skills and knowledge they have studied. There’s no more authentic way in communications to teach PBL-style than to provide these opportunities to students. Yes, online is a cheaper medium that could provide similar chances, yet print makes these students pause and think a bit longer. After all, if an error is made online, it can be corrected in a few keystrokes. Yet, with print – it lasts, there’s no instant corrections, we find it makes students more thoughtful and purposeful with their intentions, their editing, and their story-telling.

As journalism teachers, we keep our eyes on collegiate opportunities for our budding writers, photojournalists, broadcast journalists and web/social media staffers. With the proposed cuts to the Truman communication program, our high-achieving students will keep that in mind as they make their choices.

MIPA hopes the university looks for alternative cuts that could be made on campus, rather than cutting a valuable communication and education tool for its students.


MIPA Board of Directors